A new breast cancer study has good news, but not everyone can celebrate equally.

Image by Tyler Hoehne.

For years, breast cancer patients, survivors, and their families have wondered if decades of walks, ribbons, fundraising, awareness, and dedicated activism were making a difference.

On Tuesday, a new batch of results came in.


A statistical analysis published by the American Cancer Society found that mortality rates from breast cancer fell 39% between 1989 and 2015.

The decrease amounts to 322,600 saved lives in 26 years, according to the paper's authors. Researchers attribute the drop to increased early detection and more effective treatment options.

The percentage of women over 40 who have had a mammogram in the prior two years grew from 29% in 1987 to 64% in 2015. Meanwhile, options for combatting the disease have increased, thanks to the advent of new drugs and therapies.

Hundreds of thousands of fewer people dying is good news.

The bad news is that black women continue to die from the disease at higher rates than any other demographic.

While a lower percentage of black women are dying from the disease overall, their fatality rates are still nearly 40% higher than those of white women, a rate that has remained maddeningly persistent for decades.

Photo by USAG, Humphreys/Flickr.

"The reason for the black and white difference is primarily related to economic status and lack of insurance on part of black women," Harold Freeman, former director of the American Cancer Society, told NPR in a 2014 interview.  "But also, we have a health care system that doesn't treat everyone equally." He cites a lack of ability to pay for preventive care and subconscious assumptions that lead some medical professionals to ignore black women's concerns as contributing factors.

The study also found that the racial mortality gap varied heavily by region. Disparities were worst in eight mostly southern states: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, and Michigan.

Eliminating the racial disparity when it comes to breast cancer diagnoses will require more than ribbons and walks to solve — and organizations are already rising to the challenge.

Groups like Breast Cancer Action have made racial justice a core plank, citing the need to address the disparities in education, housing, and economic power that exacerbate the mortality gap at its root.

As a stopgap, programs like the CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program help provide early detection screenings to low-income and uninsured people.

While some states indeed showed large, persistent racial disparities in mortality rates, according to the study, the gap was nearly nonexistent in several others. Three states — California, Massachusetts, and Delaware — made significant, verifiable progress in making outcomes more equal over the 26-year span.

"This means that there is light at the end of the tunnel," Carol DeSantis, lead author of the study, told The Washington Post. "Some states are showing that they can close the gap."

For the 252,710 people expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year — and hundreds of thousands more in the years to come — the progress in treating the disease is a welcome sign.

The work to make sure they all have an equal shot at a full recovery remains.

Heroes
via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

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"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

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The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

Inclusivity

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via The Mighty

If you grew up with an "emotionally fragile" parent, chances are, you didn't have the typical, idyllic childhood you often see in movies.

Maybe your parent lived with debilitating depression that thrust you into the role of caregiver from a very young age.

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Jasmine has been used as a natural treatment for depression, anxiety, and stress for thousands of years. Oil from the plant has also been used to treat insomnia and PMS, and is considered a natural aphrodisiac. It turns out, our ancestor's instincts to slather on the oil when they wanted a little R&R were correct.

A study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and according to Professor Hanns Hatt of the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, revealed that jasmine can calm you down when you're feeling anxious.The results can "be seen as evidence of a scientific basis for aromatherapy."

"Instead of a sleeping pill or a mood enhancer, a nose full of jasmine from Gardenia jasminoides could also help, according to researchers in Germany. They have discovered that the two fragrances Vertacetal-coeur (VC) and the chemical variation (PI24513) have the same molecular mechanism of action and are as strong as the commonly prescribed barbiturates or propofol," says the study.

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